Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

June 20, 2014—July 3, 2014

June 20, 2014
There comes a tipping point in the life of practice when we realize that we are choosing to spend more time in working to end our suffering than we spend in trying to make ourselves comfortable. That choice—mostly it happens without conscious effort—frees us wonderfully since there will never come an end to the discomforts, micro and macro, we encounter many times an hour in our world, while there is—just as we were told—an end to suffering. It’s like the choice during a Burmese summer between trying to scratch each mosquito bite throughout every day or night and buying a mosquito net.

June 22, 2014
Here’s what my memory loss feels like to me. It’s as though I now know that there has always been within me—or accessible to me—this rich, amazing ocean filled with swimming fish of all different shapes, sizes, colors, swaying coral, green algae. I scoop down as I always have to capture one of the fishes just long enough to look at it closely before I release it. The difference in these years is that the fish often wriggles off beyond my sight before I can catch it or perhaps even name it. What my process of awakening has made clear to me is that there are endless, innumerable fish with glittering scales and swishing fins in that ocean of impermanence, and there is no need to attach to this particular one. Instead, as the fish I had looked for slips away, I experience the deeper enjoyment that springs from gratitude for the ocean itself, for the endless energy of endlessly diverse life.

And even when I can no longer see the diverse life, there will always be the ocean, primal, still, deep, welcoming.

June 26, 2014
Looking through these dharma gleanings I stumbled on the entry (August 28, 2007) that mentions Bettina quoting Susuki who recommends “living without a trace.” I feel so much that this has been one of the gifts of my practice and also of my memory loss: it becomes easier to live without a trace, because over and over I have been able to see that the remembrance I was attached to and that was lost would not really serve me in the present moment.

July 1, 2014
Don’t quote me but people who are suffering and who are not engaged—consciously or unconsciously—in transformation are...boring. There is no motion—it is a cycle of samsara within the cycle of samsara. Or, to quote Ajahn Sucitto, “We keep moving from this to that without ever getting to the root of the process.” It’s like watching a chess game with a player who doesn’t know that the point of the game is to checkmate her opponent’s king and keeps wailing and complaining and becoming angry that she can’t win a game.

Still, boring or not, we can see that like ourselves they are trying to end their suffering—it’s just that nobody has taught them how to play chess effectively. Boring or not, we can see that they are the Buddha when he was starving himself and forcing his limbs into a pretzel.

July 3, 2014
I have felt a profound shift, in part from a recognition ignited while reading Straight from the Heart, the lectures of Ajahn Maha Boowa. I felt such loving kinship with the ajahn as I started reading his words. As with Adyashanti or Shinzen Young, or perhaps Tolle, though it’s been a long time since I read him, it is so transparent that he is speaking from a direct experience of freedom, a kind of audacity that comes from a being that is saturated in traditional teachings and yet not dutifully speaking from them. Also, he is genuinely amazed and joyful at his discoveries—he feels and communicates the wonder of the practice.

What created the shift in me was his lecture on pain, the clarity with which he describes the process—not simply the fact—of separation of the skandas or aggregates (body, feeling, perception, mental formation, consciousness). I was already aware of my own experience that the more the awareness is consulted, the more it expands until it takes up most of the room of being, so that the skandas shrink in space and importance, and we come to identify less and less with them.

In examining pain, Ajahn Maha Boowa carried that further for me. As he delineated how we can experience body, perceptions, feelings, mental formations, consciousness each as separate from each other (which of course they are, though our minds meld them), I saw more clearly than before (January 6, 2014) how they are all absolutely separate from the awareness. I could see that this recognition corresponds to my experience—reading about it felt like permission to take that experience as far as it would go.

I could see, with Ajahn’s help, how the Pacceka Buddhas just sat with this independent awareness until the separate manifestations of body, perceptions, feelings, mental formations, consciousness simply dropped away for days. Though I cannot do that, it became clear to me, not just intellectually, that it makes perfect “sense” that of course it is possible—just as someone who has just learned to swim might see that it would be perfectly unsurprising that a more accomplished swimmer could swim to the end of an Olympic pool. And as the new swimmer might, I see what would be required for that longer haul and feel motivated to train.

Once we have separated everything out—awareness from feeling from body from pain—it is clear and obvious and simple why the mind won’t die.

In our daily lives, when we have become fully aware of the constant coming and going of the skandas, their arising and dissolution, and how they are fundamentally separate, we—unlike the Pacceka Buddhas—don’t lose touch with them. Since we are not overlaying them with our dukkha and delusions, our stories and dramas, we can be clearly aware of them, what and where they are, their movements, and can see how little they have to do with our awareness, with the knower.